Terrible trauma of being conned

Victims of doorstep confidence tricks are often left so distraught by the crimes that they never recover.

Victims of doorstep confidence tricks are often left so distraught by the crimes that they never recover.

Some go on to suffer heart attacks or other health problems, according to a Norfolk support worker.

Ivor Rickwood, of Victim Support Norwich, tells of the devastating effects that bogus callers and distraction burglars cause as the EDP continues its Keep Them

Out campaign with Norfolk police.

Mr Rickwood has worked with more than 1,200 victims of crime and specialises in dealing with elderly victims.

Our campaign urges people to be more vigilant and

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to report any suspect individuals so that officers can build an accurate picture of the extent of these crimes.

He regards such offenders as the “moral equivalents of child abusers” because they exploit victims' vulnerability.

“They are cynical criminals who have no pity,” said Mr Rickwood.

“These criminals pick their victims very carefully. Many do not even know they have been robbed until some time afterwards, and it is likely that some never realise and that some are too ashamed to even report the loss or to tell relatives.

“Victims commonly experience disbelief, shame, humiliation and blame themselves. They lose any remaining self-confidence, lose independence and can even be berated by concerned relatives. I have known several cases in which previously ok people have died within weeks of the crime or have had heart attacks, strokes or falls brought about by stress. Some feel they need, or are pressurised by well-meaning relatives, to go into care homes.”

Victim Support is involved in such cases from the moment they are reported to police, helping to take the stress out of the situation and guiding the elderly through the criminal justice process.

Bogus callers use a variety of methods to pick out vulnerable targets. These include:

Targeting streets or areas with lots of 1930s-1960s bungalows or retirement flats.

Looking for overgrown gardens and bushes or handrails to the front door as an indication of elderly residents.

Hanging around post offices, building societies or local shops looking for potentially vulnerable people with cash to steal. They may follow them home or snatch a handbag.

Waiting until the householder is out, then pull-off some tiles or guttering. Later, they call and offer to do repairs.

Passing on information about vulnerable people/

houses on the criminal grapevine.

'I FEEL SO STUPID'

An 84-year-old Norwich man lost £750 after a bogus caller claiming to be from the water board called at his home saying that a nearby house had been flooded.

The man, who does not wish to be named in case he is targeted again, took the precaution of asking for identification but, when the caller claimed it was in a nearby vehicle, invited him into his home.

The caller claimed there had been a water leak down the road and he needed to enter the property to check the water pressure. He also told the victim he could not use his gas supply. It was until later that the money was discovered missing from an upstairs bedroom.

“I had taken the money out as a loan to pay for repairs to my car. Normally I would have kept it in the bank but was keeping it safe upstairs until I needed it,” he said.

“Normally I would not let anybody into my house who called unexpectedly but it seemed like an emergency. I feel so stupid but now I will always check somebody's credentials.”

The caller was using a common tactic of trying to throw the householder by creating a sense of urgency. Police say that in such circumstances householders should always stop to think and check out the caller's story before letting them into the property.

Residents should never let anyone into their home unless they have confirmed their identity by phoning the company or organisation they claim to represent using the number in the phone book. Genuine callers will never mind waiting while such checks are made.